Predicted Newcastle team v Sunderland
Sunday 21 December 1.30pm Live On SKY Sports
Alan Pardew attempts to win his first ever derby at St.James’ Park, with only the Ryan ‘over the wall’ Taylor match at the Stadium of Light having given the Newcastle manager a win over Sunderland in his time on Tyneside.
Sunderland could be a big ten points behind United if everything goes ok today, yet defeat could bring the mackems to within four points and four places of their neighbours heading into Christmas.
Pardew described these two possibilities as a win for Sunderland making people perceive they’ve had a decent start to the season, while if United win then neutrals would think Newcastle have had a great opening half of the season.
As usual the visitors seem to have a lot of players who are much of a muchness, though Lee Cattermole stands out as he kicks a fair few more people than the rest of them. Bizarrely, the mackem fans were up in arms at Clattermole not getting an England call up when Jack Colback was named in Hodgson’s squad earlier this campaign.
I know England aren’t any great shakes these days but the laughs that Carlton Palmer and Geoff Thomas got when they were called up, would be nothing compared to the Sunderland midfielder getting the nod.
Their struggle for goals sums up the average nature of the team; Fletcher is top scorer with four while Gomez and Wickham have three each.
Surprisingly Newcastle have lost more Premier League matches than the visitors, five to four, though the mackems have drawn an incredible ten of their sixteen games.
While Newcastle have been poor in front of goal with only 18, Sunderland have a pathetic 14, while in defence the visitors have let in 24 compared to United’s 22.
However, if you knock off the 8 they conceded against Southampton, 16 in 15 matches suggests that goals could be hard to come by.
My feeling is that Sunderland have little that can surprise us, especially if we have a back four of Janmaat, Taylor, Coloccini and Dummett as expected. Hopefully Alnwick won’t have had his confidence knocked too much and he will need to stand up to a very predictable policy of the red and whites throwing plenty high balls in to test him.
While Cattermole will be in the red and white corner, so long as he’s fit enough I don’t think there is any way Pardew won’t pick Cheick Tiote in the black and white one.
The United boss has already said he doesn’t expect lots of goals and has pointed out that both teams play a similar style, attacking from deep.
The fear as always is that if United don’t go out to get the first goal, then the visitors could fluke one and then that changes the whole complexion of the game. As no doubt you’ll be aware, our team under Pardew has rarely come back into games after conceding the first goal, though there have been a few exceptions to that rule this season.
I see Ayoze Perez as the first name on the team sheet in the attacking third, despite Pardew’s strange comments that he’s worried he may be overawed. I would also find a space for Papiss Cisse but I have a feeling Pardew will only go with one striker.
Yoan Gouffran ahead of Remy Cabella is sure to be another likely choice that will disappoint fans, while Sammy Ameobi is likely to play left to give balance.
Predicted starting 11;
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